Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ecclesiastes 9:1-12:14


As we wrap up Ecclesiastes, we find Qohelet in his usual optimistic mode.

In chapter 9:1-12 he reminds us that death awaits us all. And while a living dog is better off than a dead lion (verse 4), the dead have one advantage:

For the living know that they will die,
   but the dead know nothing;
      (Ecclesiastes 9:5a)

But they have nothing more to hope for:

they have no further reward,
    and even their name is forgotten.
      (Ecclesiastes 9:5b)

Qohelet's solution, as always, is to enjoy what you have while you can (verses 7-10). And that's where the video embedded at the end of today's post comes in.

Verse 11 reminds us of some of life's injustices and verse 12 tells us that no one knows when they will die.

Verses 13-18 are a parable of sorts. I've noticed that Qohelet really is not very good at parables. The point of this one is that wisdom is better than strength.

In chapter 10 we have a collection of proverbs. Verse 1 may be the source of the expression "a fly in the ointment." The proverbs deal with life's injustices, the value of wisdom, hard work, and governance, and the need to be cautious in what we say. Is verse 20 the source of our saying "a little bird told me"?

There are more proverbs in chapter 11beginning with one that the good old King James Version made mysterious in translation:

Cast thy bread upon the waters:
   for thou shalt find it after many days.
      (Ecclesiastes 11:1 KJV)

The New International Version clarifies that this is probably about the value of international trade:

Ship your grain across the sea;
   after many days you may receive a return.
      (Ecclesiastes 11:1 NIV)

Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:7 are about youth. Enjoy it, Qohelet says, while you've got it. And don't forget God while you're young (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Verse 8 concludes Qohelet's teachings with his usual refrain:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
   “Everything is meaningless!”  

Verses 9-14 are an epilogue, probably from another writer. I have a friend who insists that it undermines everything Qohelet said. I'm not so sure, but I will admit that there is a deuteronomistic ring to it.

Now all has been heard;
   here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
   for this is the duty of all mankind.
 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
   including every hidden thing,
   whether it is good or evil.
      (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

And now the promised video. I'm a big fan of singer/songwriter Todd Snider. You should be too. Here he is performing a song that he didn't write. Neither did Qohelet, but he could have.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotes are from the New International Version.
Next: Song of Solomon

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